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Inland Empire Pub. Lands Council v. Schultz

ELR Citation: 23 ELR 20845
Nos. No. 92-36970, 992 F.2d 977/(9th Cir., 05/07/1993)

The court holds that the U.S. Forest Service did not arbitrarily or capriciously conclude that no significant environmental impact would result from the Calispell Timber Sale in Washington State, offered pursuant to the Colville National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan, and, therefore, no environmental impact statement was required under the National Environmental Policy Act. The Forest Service originally announced the timber sale in October 1990, issuing an environmental assessment and a finding of no significant impact. An administrative appeal of the sale by environmental groups led to reversal of the sale and an order that the Service prepare a supplemental environmental assessment. After preparing a modified and expanded analysis, the Service reoffered the sale and awarded the sale to the high bidders in the original sale.

The court first holds that the decision to reoffer the sale was a final agency action, and, therefore, the Service was correct in disallowing a second administrative appeal on the ground that no new decision had been made. The court defers to the Service's decision not to allow a second appeal, because the Service's administrative appeals process is not mandated by Congress, but rather has been implemented at the agency's discretion. The court next holds that the Service took the requisite hard look at cumulative environmental consequences of this sale. Reviewing the lower court's denial of a preliminary injunction to the environmental groups under the arbitrary and capricious standard, the court holds that the environmental groups did not demonstrate a sufficient likelihood of success on the merits to warrant the injunction. The court defers to the Service's expertise on the question of the best scientific methodology to be applied, finding no fault with the Service's consideration of the sale's effects in the context of past and reasonably foreseeable logging in the forest's watershed. Further, the groups did not demonstrate that the Service's cumulative effects analysis omitted consideration of any factor necessary to an informed decision. The court also holds that the Service's conclusions that no adverse effects on the streamflow regime were present and no significant degradation of the watershed was likely were not arbitrary or capricious.

Counsel for Plaintiffs-Appellants
Mark E. Wilson
University Legal Assistance
N. 1220 Dakota St., Spokane WA 99220
(509) 484-6091

Counsel for Defendants-Appellees
Evelyn S. Ying
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Wright, J. (before Thompson and Kleinfeld, JJ.)